As I get older, I find myself becoming more and more of a minimalist. I want less stuff. I want less distractions. I want less good things in my life in order to make more room for the best things in life. I’m becoming a big fan of that kind of minimalism. But there is also a bad kind of minimalism. It’s one that constantly asks, “What is the least I can do and still get by?” And when we apply that kind of minimalism to the core parts of our lives, it’s a really effective way to be amazingly mediocre, boring, and unfulfilled.
“Minimalism is a mind-set, a habit of the mind that can affect any area of our lives.
The litany of the minimalist is never ending.
What is the least I can do and still keep my job? What is the least I can do and still get reasonable grades in school? What is the least I can do and stay physically fit? What is the least I can do and raise my children? What is the least I can do and keep my spouse from nagging me? What is the least I can do and still get to heaven?
The minimalist wants the fruits of a certain toil but does not want to toil.
Minimalism breeds mediocrity. It is the destroyer of passion. Minimalism is one of the greatest character diseases of our time. It is the enemy of excellence and a cancer on society.” – Matthew Kelly, The Rhythm of Life
A “character disease” indeed. And an epidemic, really.
There are two main reasons I find myself tending toward this unhealthy kind of minimalism.
1) I’m lazy. I’m not disciplined. And to make up for it, I end up needing to cut corners and get through the easy way (which is rarely as good or as rewarding as the often tough and challenging natural way).
2) I try to do too much. There are endless opportunities to learn, love and experience this world and its curious inhabitants. We often focus on superficially doing as much of it as possible and trying to cram it all in, hoping it somehow all adds up to happiness. And it necessitates the lame excuses and shortcuts that come from the blunder of making “modern conditions an absolute end, and then trying to fit human necessities to that end.”
What I mean is that we start with the fact that we need a certain house in a certain neighborhood with certain schools. And we need to drive certain cars and have a certain paying job (or two of them). And we need to watch this much TV and have this kind of lifestyle and go on these kinds of vacations and do this kind of recreation. And then we say, “Ok, how many kids can we squeeze into that?” “How much prayer is practical with that kind of schedule?” “How much time (considering all we have to do) is considered a ‘reasonable’ amount of time to spend caring for and loving our family?” Of course, we’ve got this backwards. And having it backwards naturally leads to embracing the bad kind of minimalism in the most important parts of our lives.
We are so busy worrying we’re going to miss out on something that we end up missing out on a very simple, but important fact: We only need to do a very small bit of it all with excellence and passion to be happy. And if we do it with the right small bit of it all, we will live a joyously fulfilled, complete and extraordinary life.